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Police to question club owner after Bangkok blaze

Thai police prepared to interrogate the owner and managers of a high-class Bangkok nightclub where a New Year's Eve fire killed at least 62 people.

world Updated: Jan 04, 2009 14:13 IST

Thai police prepared on Sunday to interrogate the owner and managers of a high-class Bangkok nightclub where a New Year's Eve fire killed at least 62 people and left dozens of others with massive burns covering most of their bodies. Thirteen people were to be questioned including the club owner, managers of his White and Brothers Co., and staffers of a company hired to put on a countdown fireworks display on the stage of the Santika Club.

The fire raced through the two-story building with victims succumbing to the blaze, smoke inhalation and injuries from a stampede as hundreds of revelers tried to escape through a single main door.

The death toll rose by one to 62 on Sunday with 31 others in critical condition having sustained burns over 70 percent of their bodies, according to Narenthorn Emergency Center. No charges related to the fire have yet been filed but the owner, Thai-Chinese businessman Wisuth Setsawat, was initially charged with allowing in underage customers after a 17-year-old high school student was found among the dead.

One Bangkok radio station said Wisuth would present himself to police later Sunday. Local newspapers said Wisuth had earlier asked police to delay his interrogation until he recovers from his own injuries from the blaze.

Police Lt. Gen. Boonruang Polpanich said the cause of the fire has not yet been determined.

"There will have to be several more site inspections to get as clear a picture as possible," he told reporters. A total of 78 patients, including 47 in stable condition, were still being treated at Bangkok hospitals with 17 of them foreigners, the center said. One Singaporean was confirmed dead. Police Col. Nithi Banthuwong, who is in charge of identifying the dead, said nine severely burned and disfigured bodies had yet to be identified.

Mourners, including tourists and relatives of the Thai dead, have come to lay flowers at the parking area in front of the charred club. Buddhists among them lit incense sticks and chanted prayers for the repose of the souls of the departed.

Teenagers have also been coming to the club at night with cameras, hoping to capture ghosts in their photos. Belief in ghosts is widespread in Thailand, with some saying they can sometimes be seen on photos but not the naked eye.